The pro race season kicked into high gear with the Strade Bianchi last Saturday. Even though it is a relatively new race on the calendar, the Strade Bianchi has already become a favorite. And, really, who could resist racing your bike through Tuscany's vineyards? I would be tempted to stop along the way for a sample. Or two...
The race features 10 sections of white dirt roads (the Strade Bianchi) over the course of 200 kilometers concluding in Sienna with a short, wicked, up hill finish. This year featured sunny skies and dry weather. The scenery was stunning, just like the wines from the Tuscany region of Italy. The race was stunning as well with an exciting finish featuring three men that got away from a small bunch of riders late in the race.
This is one of my favorite races of the year. It marks the beginning of the one day classics racing season. It features great style (what else could you expect from Italy?), beautiful rolling terrain, vineyards and Tuscan villages. It is also a great opportunity for the Lucha Vino challenge to explore the excellent Italian wines of Tuscany.
Making the 2015 edition of the race even better is the return of Eight Bells Sangiovese to defend the title it won last year.
Eight Bells 2012 Sangiovese v. Ruffino 2011 Riserva Ducale Chianti Classico
Tale of the Tape
Eight Bells 2012 Sangiovese
100% Sangiovese from the Red Willow vineyard located in the Yakima Valley AVA
Provided as a sample by the winery and available at retail for $20.
Ruffino 2011 Riserva Ducale Chianti Classico
80% Sangiovese. Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon make up the remaining 20%
Aged for 24 months in Oak, Stainless and Concrete vats with an additional 3 months in bottle.
Provided as a sample for a recent Virtual Snooth Tasting. This wine is available for $24 at retail.
Round 1. First Opening
The Ruffino certainly has a style and swagger to it right from the start! Unbeknownst to the officials, this Italian luchador snuck some Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon into the ring. The nose is earthy with hints of cedar and light red berry notes that remind me of huckleberries and strawberries. The palate is dry and herbal showing dried strawberry, rose petals with nice acidity and a slightly spicy finish.
Eight Bells is taking the battle straight at the Tuscan challenger. The nose features dried cherries, flowers and light herbal notes along with some citrus spices. The palate doubles down on the dried cherries and throws in some herbal menthol spice notes for good measure. The finish grabs your attention with light spices and a great streak of acidity.
Ruffino takes the first round. The additional aging (and Merlot/Cab in the blend) made the difference in this early round.
Round 2. One hour later
The Ruffino Chianti Classico appears to be getting a bit over confident, playing to the crowd and not paying close attention to the Eight Bells Champion. The nose is getting richer with shades of cherry, raspberry and dusty tobacco spices. The palate is similar with dried herbal spice notes that carry over to the finish.
The Eight Bells Champion is not going down without a fight. The champion drops into the ring from the top rope with a devastating flying body slam that takes the overconfident Ruffino luchador by complete surprise! The nose is continuing to develop with notes of herbal citrus and dried flowers followed by cherry and light cedar spices. The palate is showing dried tart cherries and rose petals, cedar spices and firm acidity that all carry over to the finish.
Eight Bells takes round two.
Round 3. One day later
This is it. The match is all tied up and it looks like the Eight Bells Champion is prepared to go the distance. Let's see what the Tuscan challenger has in store.
The Ruffino luchador is showing some good stamina. The nose shows herbal, slightly earthy dried cherries and a touch of cedar spices. The palate continues to display dried cherries and sweet tobacco leaf spices that are complimented by a finish that concludes with tart, spicy tobacco leaf notes.
Eight Bells is switching things up. You can never underestimate the heart of a champion. The nose is getting darker with funky, earthy aromas, cherries and light earthy herbal spices. The palate shows cherries, dried herbs and light white pepper that repeats on a dry finish.
Eight Bells proves to be a worthy champion, taking round 3 and the the match with a 2-1 final score.
Wrap up and overall observations.
This was a great matchup. Both of these wines are great values in the $20-$25 range. If you can find them, I would highly recommend picking up a bottle (or two or three).
Both wines showed great acidity through all three rounds and would be a great companion to a number of different dishes.